Titans: So Long to 2019 and A Look Ahead to 2020

What a journey! The 2019 NFL season is not one that I’ll soon forget.  From the Taylor Lewan suspension, to the 2-4 start, to the benching of Marcus Mariota, to the field goal woes, to the emergence of Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, and finally the run to the AFC Championship Game. WHEW!  It was an absolute blast filled with many different emotions, both positive and negative.

Where I was wrong:

Mariota

I had no doubt in my mind that if Marcus stayed healthy this season, he was going to play well and earn himself a new contract.  My confidence in that was alarmingly high.  When he failed to play well, not only was I surprised, but I was also just sad.  I’m a huge fan of the man and the football player.  He showed so much potential in his first two years in the league and then willed the Titans to their first playoff appearance in his third.  What went wrong? There are tons of possible reasons for his decline and demise, but the fact is, he didn’t get it done and I still hate it for him. He’s the first Titan that will leave the franchise and I’ll purposefully turn on a TV to watch him play elsewhere. Good luck, 8!

Vrabel

I wasn’t completely sold on Vrabel after his first year with the team. I was stuck on the high that was the playoff birth in 2017 and when we failed to get there the following year, I placed some of the blame on him.  I expected more than 9-7 and no playoff birth that first year. Then when we started 2-4, I wasn’t just not sold, I was out on him. His in-game coaching mistakes seemed to be piling up and the team was just not very good at the beginning of the year, even outside of the QB.  Not much was going right except for defense.  But he turned it around.  He got better in-game as the season went on and clearly had the team in the correct mindset in the playoffs.  Good job, Vrabel.  I was wrong about you.

Where I was right:

Arthur Smith

I loved the Smith hire from the beginning and tried my best not to pile on him when the offense struggled early.  I had a feeling that if I did, I’d regret it later, and I was right there.  The players responded well to him throughout the year and as he got more comfortable, he started dominating the chess match between OC and DC.  He’ll be around for another year or two, but he has the talent and work ethic to be a head coach in the NFL and it will come soon.

The Ravens Revenge

There were a couple of other broad topics that I was right about, but this one was a weird feeling thing that just turned out to be correct.  In early December I tweeted out that it was time to get revenge on the Ravens in the divisional round as a wild card after the times they’d done it to us, and we did it.  That win was sweeter than any in the past decade and a half.

Where do the Titans go in 2020?

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill came in and seized the opportunity given to him and absolutely played out of his mind.  He was a big reason for the turn around this season and put up some of the best numbers in the league.  It’s likely he’ll be back in 2020 with at least a franchise tag, but beyond that? I’m not sure.  I think Tannehill is better than Nick Foles, and while I think his run was Nick Folesesque, I think the dropoff won’t be nearly as dramatic. On the flipside, I do think the dropoff will be a bit more significant than some Titans fans believe.  I think he showed us who he really is in his last 6 or 7 starts.  He had some good, not good, and somewhere in between games in that stretch, and wasn’t as dynamic as he was coming out of the gate.  Even so, he was still more than competent in those starts and made some really great plays. He’s a good quarterback, I’m just not sure if he’s a Super Bowl-winning one.  I think the Titans should franchise him in 2020, draft a QB in the second or third, and go from there.  Let him prove it again next year.

Running Back

Sign Derrick Henry.

Defense

With the retirement of Dean Pees and the loss of Kerry Coombs to Ohio State, I think the Titans are in a very important position this offseason to make sure they get the defense right.  They need to decide on Logan Ryan and a couple of other free agents, as well as choose a coach who can keep the train moving in the same direction. The defense, although they struggled late, was an overall positive for the team in 2019.  There is no need to blow anything up on that side of the ball.  J-Rob and Vrabel have a lot on their plate this offseason, but keeping the defensive roster together and choosing the right DC is one of the most overlooked, yet important decisions coming.

Special Teams

Find your kicker early and make sure he’s good.  Is that Greg Joseph? I have no idea, just don’t screw it up again.  It cost us a couple of wins this season and that is inexcusable.

Overall, this is one of the most important offseasons for the Titans in recent memory.  I have a lot of opinions on all of it, but I trust Jon Robinson until he gives me a reason not too, and so far he hasn’t.  There won’t be much boring at St. Thomas Sports Park from March-July this year.  I’ll be watching closely.

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